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CNN Uncovers Racist Posts By Tucker Carlson Staffer; One-on-One With ABC Chief White House Correspondent Jon Karl; Behind The Scenes With Top Infectious Disease Reporter; The "Firehose" Of News About COVID-19; Hedge Fund Wins Auction For McClatchy; Local News Crisis Accelerates During Pandemic. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired July 12, 2020 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, I'm Brian Stelter live in New York. And this is RELIABLE SOURCES, our weekly look at the story behind the story, the media news you need to know.
This hour, the story behind Roger Stone's commutation. Which TV and radio hosts pushed Trump to do it?
Plus, covering the summer spike in COVID-19 cases. One of the world's top infectious disease reporters will join me live in just a few minutes.
And later, something that affects all of us -- a new look at where newspapers are disappearing across America. Margaret Sullivan will here talking about how the coronavirus is compounding the local news crisis.
But, first, a CNN exclusive, about the top writer on the top show in cable news. For several days, CNN's Oliver Darcy has been investigating a tip about Blake Neff. Neff is a writer for "Tucker Carlson Tonight", at least he was until Friday when he resigned.
Darcy confirmed that Neff used a synonym to post-bigoted, sexist remarks on an online forum. That forum, by the way, is a hot bed for racism, sexism, and other offensive content.
You can read Darcy's full story up on CNN.com right now. He has all the, frankly, gruesome details about what Neff was posting and who he was interacting with, and why it matters, because that's what we're going to get into today.
Yes, Neff has resigned, it's been an embarrassment for Fox News, but it matters because "Tucker Carlson Tonight" is a hugely, high rated show, with a pipeline right to the president's ear.
Now, on Saturday afternoon, after Darcy's story was published, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott and President Jay Wallace condemned Neff in this memo saying his abhorrent conduct on the forum was never divulged to the show or the network, until Friday, at which point we swiftly accepted his resignation. With me now is the aforementioned, Oliver Darcy, along with Nicole
Hemmer, associated research scholar at Columbia University and the author of the book "Messengers of the Right: All About the Conservative Media Landscape."
Oliver, so you looked into this for several days. You reached out to Neff for comment, that's when he resigned. And Fox says they didn't know what he was doing. But his words, his racist rhetoric, doesn't it line up with the monologues that he was writing for Tucker Carlson?
OLIVER DARCY, CNN SENIOR MEDIA REPORTER: They sure do, Brian. A lot of the ideology he was spreading on this forum, he -- you know, there's a direct trace to what Tucker Carlson says on air. That's why this story matters, Brian.
I think viewers should know this wasn't a random staffer on Tucker Carlson's show. This was his top writer, someone he was helping to shape and write the monologues. He boasted that everything that Tucker Carlson said in a teleprompter he had written the first draft of (ph), and he's been secretly posting racist and sexist things online for years and as recently as this week.
And so, what you have here, then, is someone who is basically using Tucker Carlson's show to mainstream these racist and sexist ideas. While he might not be using those nutty words that he was using in this online forum, the ideas are very much the same and you have millions of people watching Tucker Carlson's show, it's the highest rated show on cable news, and you have the president of the United States not only watching, but often sharing the monologues that Tucker Carlson gives on his nightly show, which now we know were in part written by someone who has a racist and sexist history online.
STELTER: Yes, we're not going to re-air all these hateful comments, but you can read them at CNN.com. Oliver, you went through it and you shared this in your article in detail, so people know exactly what we're talking about.
Nicole, how did you react to the story when it broke on Friday night? Is this one of those do you file under shocking but not surprising? How do you characterize it?
NICOLE HEMMER, AUTHOR, "MESSENGERS OF THE RIGHT": I think "shocking not surprising" is probably the best way. I mean, it's important that we see the way that AT these ideas, which gestate in other places, get mainstreamed through Tucker Carlson's shows and other places as well.
But you read that story, and you're not surprised because if you watch Tucker Carlson's show, this lines up pretty cleanly with the kind of anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric that he uses. I mean, here's a show that has talked about the demographic erasure of white people, that has called immigrants poor and dirty, that constantly demonizes non- white women in the Congress.
I mean, this is -- this is not a surprise because the ideologies line up even if the words aren't always exactly the same. STELTER: Well, look -- look, many years ago when he was working for
MSNBC, he was talking about Iraqis as semi-literate primitive monkeys. He was making racist and homophobic comments years ago as discovered by the left-wing advocacy group, Media Matters. You know, there are reasons why Carlson has pretty -- relatively few advertisers, he has relatively few sponsors because many advertisers do not want to be associated with him.
But I think there's this -- there's this paradox, maybe, Nicole, which is advertisers don't want to be near his show. Some guests turn him down. But it's the highest-rated show on cable news.
And there's talk about Tucker Carlson running for president someday because he's so aligned up with the Republican Party.
Can you square that circle?
HEMMER: Yeah. I'm not sure that it needs a lot of squaring, right? But he has a significant amount of political power. He's very popular. He was hired to help with sort of the Trumpification of Fox News, right? His show -- he was hired for that show like a week after Donald Trump was elected. So, he was hired in part because his views line up not only with where Donald Trump is, but where the base of the Republican Party is.
And so, if Donald Trump is not just a blip in the Republican Party, but the future of it, then yeah, Tucker Carlson makes a lot of sense as the next stage of the GOP's development.
STELTER: So, I mentioned the statement from Fox on Saturday saying that they denounce this horrific and deeply offensive commentary from this writer who has resigned.
Oliver, we've heard from Fox, have we heard from Tucker?
DARCY: Well, Tucker Carlson on Friday night after the story came out, he went online -- on air, sorry, and condemned cancel culture. He had a whole segment of his show against cancel culture. He didn't directly address this, but he alluded to it. And he, you know, attacked CNN and said particularly CNN as a force of cancel culture and made the argument that it's bad for society.
So, while he's going to address this later, Fox News executives say, he really did address it before. I think the later comment is really going to be more of what is Fox News compelling going to say in the face of all this controversy.
STELTER: And what about the Murdochs. It's ultimately about the Murdochs, about the owners of Fox Corporation. And we very rarely hear from Lachlan or Rupert.
DARCY: Right, and we know in the past that they've actually supported Tucker Carlson as he's endured some of the backlash for his anti- immigrant comments. So, you know, I wouldn't expect Lachlan Murdoch to grow the courage to condemn what this writer was saying, but, you know, who knows?
STELTER: Let's turn to two other stories that relate to Tucker, because as I said, highest rated guy on cable news right now. He was one of the voices in President Trump's ear with regards to Roger Stone.
So, Nicole, tell us about that. I mean, this is about the president hearing from Tucker Carlson, Alex Jones, Sean Hannity, and then eventually not even -- going against Bill Barr and commuting Roger Stone's sentence.
HEMMER: Yeah, I mean, I think this goes back to your previous question, which is why does somebody like Tucker Carlson remain on Fox News even though he loses advertisers and things like that. And part of the answer is he is a direct pipeline to the president. The president listens to him.
And that sort of one-on-one relationship which Hannity has as well, is really important and really powerful. And so it gives Fox News and Tucker Carlson quite a lot of power, especially for a situation like this. I mean, we've seen this with pardons before, kind of a Fox News pipeline where people are elevated as a cause celebre in Fox News and then pardoned by the president.
STELTER: And then the other story involving Carlson this week is Tammy Duckworth. Tammy Duckworth, the senator, was on this network last Sunday. She was asked about George Washington's statue. She said we should think about it but coronavirus matters more, so she immediately pivoted from that question.
But just that brief comment by Duckworth was enough for Tucker Carlson to attack her two nights in a row and call her a coward and call her unpatriotic.
And, Oliver, I suppose this is the state of the GOP, that name-calling and insults from the president to Tucker on down, that is how this entire game is played.
DARCY: Right. The unifying thing in the GOP really comes down to what they call owning the libs. That's what Carlson's show often has been. What he was saying about Duckworth was less of an attack and more of a smear.
He was trying to smear her as an anti-American fanatic, someone who has gone to war, lost both of her limbs in service of this country, received the Purple Heart, come back and worked at the V.A. to improve the lives of veterans. He was trying to smear this United States senator as an anti-American fanatic. That goes beyond the normal I disagree with your policies on taxes or whatever it may be.
STELTER: It's pathetic. It's pathetic and it should be beneath him. Tucker Carlson is so smart. He doesn't have to go to the gutter like that. DARCY: It should really be outside what the public discourse allows
for, even at Fox News. I know that Fox obviously is all about attacking Democrats and, you know, they should stay with the positions. I think it was just abhorrent and reprehensible that would question the patriotism of someone who has literally given their lives -- given their limbs in service of this country.
STELTER: You know, it always goes back to this, Fox is pro-Trump, yes, but it's really anti-Democrat.
The channel is ultimately more anti-Democrat than it is pro-Trump, and that is why it's all about Biden on Fox right now, it's all about trying to destroy Biden with whatever means they can.
One more point, Nicolle, before we go break and this brings us back full circle on the subject of racism. Earlier in the week, President Trump tweeted an attack against Bubba Wallace, claiming that he made up a hoax, which he did not, and making up information about NASCAR's ratings.
The reason I want to bring this up is it's another example of the president pedaling racism. And you wrote for NBC that it's part of a racist Twitter ventriloquism act. I want you to tell me what that means? I thought that was really interesting.
HEMMER: Yes, I mean, because the president -- there are certain things the president shouldn't say. Though he normally says things he shouldn't say, one way that he can amplify racist content without being the person saying it is to retweet it because he has sort of a plausible deniability at that point. It's not -- he's Twitter saying it, it is his retweets that are saying it, and he can say, retweets aren't endorsements or I'm just kidding or it wasn't me, and that allows him to --
STELTER: Or he's just, like, I'm not attacking, I just happened to attack the only black star of NASCAR, you know? It's like, it's hmm -- yeah.
HEMMER: Exactly. That's something that's consistent with his history and the way that he talks about race and racism. Sometimes he's quite explicit about it but sometimes he needs that plausible deniability to try to continue to move black voters as well.
STELTER: Nicole Hemmer and Oliver Darcy, thank you very much. Oliver and I will continue to cover this in the nightly newsletter we have at CNN.com.
Quick break here, and we do have breaking news involving the newspaper business. One of the biggest newspaper chains in the country, McClatchy, owning papers from "The Miami Herald" to the "Sacramento Bee" t has just in the past few minutes been sold to a giant hedge fund. We're going to have to latest on that in the next few minutes. Plus, the White House Correspondents Association president, Jonathan
Karl, is standing by. He has a doozy of a new op-ed about the White House press secretary.
STELTER: I tell you what, we are in a truth emergency right now, when the commander-in-chief calls real crimes by his friends a hoax while making up crimes by his opponents, when he spreads bogus fears about voter fraud, when experts look around and say what voter fraud is he talking about? It means we are in a truth emergency.
It's been happening a lot lately. People are looking around saying what is the president talking about? Where did he hear that?
It's a truth emergency on top of a public health emergency. Experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci are being sidelined because the president cannot handle their truth. This week when Trump said 99 percent of COVID cases are harmless, which is a harmful thing to say, Dr. Fauci was just like the rest of us. He said I'm trying to figure out where the president got that number.
When the president is confused, everyone else gets confused. So, like I said -- a truth emergency.
Trump has taken up residence in an alternate political reality, former George W. Bush aide Michael Gerson says. Gerson blames, in part, the right-wing information bubble for this problem.
In the bubble, editors get duped by Middle Eastern propaganda campaigns. In the bubble, some Trump fans buy into truly crazy claims about Satan worshiping pedophiles infiltrating the government. Networks of conspiracy accounts spread this disinformation like it's poisoned. This is a truth emergency.
When former members of the president's inner circle are blocked from writing books, when news outlets are tied up with baseless lawsuits, when even Fox News is not deferential enough to his wishes, when he even gets the ratings for NASCAR races wrong, we are all in a truth emergency.
When presidential lies about the path of a hurricane prompt an internal investigation, when a single White House statement contains 12 lies and falsehoods, when the commander-in-chief repeats these lies so many times that they implant deep into the national psyche, we are in a truth emergency.
Today, he even lied about how much golf he plays, saying Obama played more than he did and for much longer periods of time. It's not true. It doesn't matter, but it's not true. In fact, it only matters because you're making it up.
But some of the lies really, really matter. Trump's claiming, for example, the virus death rate, the coronavirus death rate in the U.S. is the lowest in the world, which is not true. At least 14 other countries have lower death rates than the U.S.
So, what do we do in this emergency? Well, first, to stay tethered to the truth. You should know, you should remember, most people aren't buying this baloney.
And while local news might be hurting, it is hurting, many national papers are gaining subscribers, gaining revenue, there's a thirst for news and knowledge and truth. So we've got to keep making truth sandwiches. We got to keep making sure that the facts are as accessible as possible.
You know, it's remarkable how we see people storming the streets, protesting lies, protesting injustice, speaking out about what they're seeing. These are all anecdotes to a truth emergency. I'll tell you what's going to happen later today. We just know about truth emergencies.
Later today, some pro-Trump websites are going to take this essay and say, Brian, you are the truth emergency, and they're going to dredge up some screw-up by CNN, and they're going to say, what about that? This type of what-aboutism, it's literally what-aboutism which has roots in Soviet Russia, it goes on every day. It makes real discussion impossible.
Of course, news outlets make mistakes. Of course, politicians make mistakes. The dividing line is between those who seek the truth and try to avoid mistakes and try to learn from them, versus those who don't give a rat's arse about the truth and don't count their mistakes and just lie their way through life.
In this truth emergency, we have to appreciate the difference between those who are trying to get it right and those who don't care. We have to defend the distinction between the two. Twelve lies and falsehoods in a single Friday night statement defending the Roger Stone commutation? Twelve? This is not the behavior of a good faith actor who cares about the truth.
And that statement came from the office of the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany. As you know, she does hold regular briefings, unlike her predecessors. But those briefings are more like a game of beat the press. She comes prepared with scripted insults and putdowns and what-aboutism rhetoric.
That's why I want to tell you about this new remarkable op-ed in "The Washington Post" this week entitled "It's the Duty of the White House Press Secretary to Brief the Public and Tell the Truth, But Not Like This".
Let's bring in Jonathan Karl. He is, of course, ABC's chief White House correspondent and the president of the White House Correspondents Association, and finally, the author of the book, "Front Row at the Trump Show."
Jon, tell me about your op-ed for "The Post". You've been in these briefings front row with these briefings with
Kayleigh McEnany and they've been unlike any press briefing I've ever seen before.
JONATHAN KARL, PRESIDENT, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS' ASSOCIATION: Yes, and I've been covering the White House on and off for a long time, Brian. I've been in that room under, I think, it is now 14 different press secretaries, four different presidents.
And I -- you know, I don't like to get into a personal back-and-forth with a press secretary, but what I have seen is I've seen those briefings turn into political shows, political events. I believe -- I believe very firmly that the White House press secretary is a public servant, his or her salary paid for by the taxpayers, has a job to inform the public by informing the reporters that the public uses to get information. And, you know, it's usually an intermediary role.
Of course, the press secretary serves at the pleasure of the president, but this is a different job. She's not the spokesperson for a campaign. She is not the spokesperson for a political party. She is the spokesperson for the executive branch of the federal government of the United States.
It is a different job. It is not a purely political job. And those briefings have begun to look purely political.
STELTER: Yes, you wrote in the op-ed on WashingtonPost.com that what she's doing out there is a violation of public trust. I think the counterargument I often hear is, you all complained when there were no briefings, and now there are briefings and you're complaining again.
What's your reaction?
KARL: Yes, I think the press secretary has a responsibility to hold briefings. That's why I argued forcefully throughout my time as president of the White House Correspondents Association for a return to regular briefings. I believe that the person who is the spokesperson for the executive branch of our government has a responsibility to go before the press and answer questions on a regular basis.
But I also believe those must be informative, that those can't be purely political. You know, she has used those briefings over and over again to undermine the press, not inform the press. I mean, there was a briefing, I'm sure you remember just a short while ago, where she looked out at the reporters in the room, I was and the room, and she said the people in this room desperately want to keep churches and houses of worship closed as if reporters are somehow -- want to see --
KARL: I mean, it's -- you know, and she's gone out and cited crime statistics and murders in New York City, for example, and basically accused reporters in that room of not caring about people getting killed. It's strange.
I hope that -- I hope that the op-ed will be a little bit of a wake-up call. I hope she will change course. I mean, I am glad there are briefings, but I think those briefings, you know, shouldn't be purely political stunts.
STELTER: Yes, the briefings should be regular. Yes, now, they're regular, but they also should be reliable. They've got to be reliable.
STELTER: She seems to come with these scripted lines, Paul Farhi of "The Post" said there, like scripted walk-offs where she'll say something at the end she was planning all along, which is a show for Fox News but not actually helpful for the reporters in the room that are trying to learn more about the president and policy decisions.
What as you're -- you know, you're the president of the White House Correspondents' Association up until Wednesday when Zeke Miller will be taking over for you. Everybody has a one-year term.
Is there anything you're doing as the outgoing head of the association to lobby for improvements?
KARL: Well, I mean, the first thing was -- you know, I wrote this op- ed, it's my personal opinion.
KARL: But that, you know, I will advocate for this. And I -- you know, I -- one thing I mentioned in the briefing is that -- in the article, is the notion of the press secretary as an intermediary. She serves at the pleasure of the president, but her job is to inform the public.
And Mike McCurry, who is the first White House press secretary I ever covered, talks about how that intermediary role is really embedded in the geography of the west wing of the White House. The press office is almost exactly the midpoint between the Oval Office and the briefing room.
And, you know, usually, the press secretary is arguing on behalf of the president for sure, presenting the president's policies, but also arguing within the administration on behalf of the press corps. And I wrote this because I -- this has to be an aberration. This cannot stay this way.
I hope that Kayleigh will change course, but if not, the next administration. You have to get back to a notion of that job being a public servant's job, not a political job.
STELTER: It's such a simple concept, but it's been forgotten. I'm glad that you're calling it out.
Jon, thank you. ABCs Jon Karl, author of "Front Row at the Trump Show."
Up next here on the program, new revelations from this tell-all book by Trump's niece, Mary. She comes pretty close to diagnosing the president. We have those quotes from the book. They are next.
STELTER: Now, to a part of Mary Trump's book that you probably haven't heard about yet. The clinical psychologist and niece of the president paints a disturbing portrait writing, I have no problem calling Donald Trump a narcissist. He meets all nine criteria as outlined in the DSM 5. But the label only gets us only so far."
Then she presents some potential diagnoses. She says, a case could be made that he meets the criteria for antisocial personality disorder, meaning a psychopath. She says, Donald may also meet some criteria for dependent personality disorder. She says, he may have a long undiagnosed learning disability that has for decades interfere with his ability to process information.
She goes on to admit that he can never truly be diagnosed. She says, Donald's pathologies are so complex and his behaviors so often inexplicable that coming up with an accurate and comprehensive diagnosis would require a full battery of psychological and neuropsychological tests that he'll never sit for.
This is all in the number one best-selling book in America. It's been on Amazon number one now for more than a week and it doesn't officially come out until Tuesday. But just keep in mind this is all in the number one book in the country.
I know that we see stuff like the president's misspellings all the time. We see constant misspellings from his Twitter feed. Here's one example that's a new one. Misspelling the word liar is yet another typo that took off on Twittersphere.
You look at larger kinks in logic that are also on display when he said one 1/100th when he meant for the 100th time. Or in this interview with "Telemundo" the other day, he repeatedly conflated bills which must be passing the law by Congress with executive order. So, there are those kinds of errors and misspellings and typos and screw ups but Mary Trump is suggesting something much deeper, much more serious. And I think more than three years into the Trump presidency the press still tip toes when talking about the president's mental health, when talking about his fitness for office.
Let me bring in someone who thinks the press should stop the tip toeing and get a lot louder about this. Tony Schwartz is the coauthor of Donald Trump's "Art of the Deal" and he's with me now.
Tony, you said the press is scared about this. Why do you think there's fear talking about this subject?
TONY SCHWARTZ, CO-AUTHOR, "THE ART OF THE DEAL": I think that the press and America as a culture has been incredibly slow to take a look at what influences people internally, at what the shaping influences are in their lives, the unconscious biases and blind spots and belief systems that grow out of your early experience. And it's because it's a little more subjective, it's because it's uncomfortable, certainly uncomfortable to look at yourself around those issues. And I think as a consequence, the press has really abdicated a role that is absolutely critical right now.
STELTER: It's difficult because as Mary Trump acknowledges, there's no way to actually have a diagnosis. But she takes a look at the evidence she sees from knowing him personally and then also from television, from the Mueller report, et cetera, and tries to paint a picture in this book.
Now, Tony, she's barred from giving interviews right now because there's this court case from the president's brother, Robert, saying that she has violated a confidentially settlement. So, right now Mary Trump cannot give interviews even though her book comes out in two days. It's going to be interesting to see if she does speak what she will say.
What do you want to know personally from Mary Trump?
SCHWARTZ: Well, first of all, I can give interviews and my view of this is remarkably similar to Mary Trump's. Not (INAUDIBLE). We both had long exposure to this man. I have studied psychology myself for 30 years.
And in 2016 in "The New Yorker," I said that if I could rename "The Art of the Deal," I'd rename it The Sociopath. Sociopath, psychopath, they're essentially the same. And I've just written several weeks ago a piece called "The Psychopath in Chief" on "Medium." You can just Google "The Psychopath in Chief" and tried to lay out what I think is the core diagnosis. And so does Mary Trump, which is he is a man without conscience and empathy. And that is the most dangerous thing you can have in a human being.
That's what allows people to do what he's doing right now which is to be responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people and not give a damn. That's how he can go forward with his policies, Brian, because he doesn't actually care. If it's the end always justifies the means and the only end is being reelected, the problem is his time has passed. America is moving beyond him.
STELTER: I don't want to believe you. I don't want to believe you, Tony. I don't want to imagine that he doesn't care about the loss of life, but everybody just based on his reactions to the virus.
Let me say this, Tony. I think 2020's campaign, I think the battleground is going to be the brain. Because Trump is --
STELTER: -- accusing Joe Biden of being deficient, saying that he is not fully there. Biden's PACs are firing back. Sadly this is going to be a topic all throughout the fall.
Tony, thank you.
STELTER: I got to wrap here.
STELTER: Thank you for being here.
For the latest on that Mary Trump court case that I mentioned be sure to check out our nightly RELIABLE SOURCES newsletter. You can sign up for free right now. There's the URL, CNN.it/reliable.
After the break a big lie about testing, where it came from and why it matters.
STELTER: Now, to the COVID-19 crisis and what you need to know. How should the press be emphasizing this emergency as it goes on day by day by day?
Let me bring in one of the top infectious disease reporters on the planet, Helen Branswell. She's a senior writer at "STAT News" and she has been covering this pandemic for six plus months.
Helen, thanks for coming in. I'm curious how you keep up every day. What's the best analogy for the sheer amount of news there is about COVID every day?
HELEN BRANSWELL, INFECTIOUS DISEASE AND GLOBAL HEALTH REPORTER, STAT NEWS: I think you used it at the top of the show. It is really a firehose or multiple fire hoses. There's just so much information coming at us at any one time. It is really hard to keep up.
STELTER: So even for you, you have a hard time and this is your job.
BRANSWELL: Sure, but, I mean, think about it. We think about this as a single pandemic, but in actual fact, it's a series of outbreaks that's playing out at different stages at different -- in different times across the globe. And so --
BRANSWELL: -- trying to find out what's going on in Hong Kong, how they're keeping up with it or Arizona. I mean, there is so much to be trying to keep up with, it's really difficult.
STELTER: Yes, it's a patchwork pandemic as Ed Yong of "The Atlantic" said.
What should the press be emphasizing? Look, yesterday the president finally after 134,000 deaths decided to wear a mask in public. Better late than never, I guess. But that photo op is not the kind of thing that deserves a ton of attention because there's so much going on.
What do you think the press should be emphasizing?
BRANSWELL: I think what people need to understand is that we can't wish this away. This virus doesn't care about how we vote. It doesn't care whether we believe it's serious or not. It doesn't care if we think it's just the flu. It's just going to keep infecting people if we give it an opportunity to do so.
And so we have to think about ways to live with this virus until there's a vaccine and until you can get to the point where a lot of people in any single location and, in fact, around the globe are protected so that we can fully resume the kind of activity that we all wish we could do now. You know, it's currently not safe to pretend that we can act in the summer of 2020 as we acted in the summer of 2019.
STELTER: And so you've had to change your own habits, your own behaviors as a reporter?
BRANSWELL: Yes, yes. I've been at home since early March. Most people I know have been, you know --
BRANSWELL: -- for those of us who are fortunate enough to work in jobs where you can work remotely, that's not everybody's case, obviously.
STELTER: Yes, but to your point, you know, there's a silent majority in America that is doing the right thing, that is being cautious. And I know it's -- there's all viral videos of jerks at Costco not wearing masks. Those folks are the exceptions right now. A lot of people are doing the right thing, we need to make sure we know that even though we don't see it every day because most of us are at home.
Helen, thank you very much.
STELTER: I want to show one more thing to the viewers about COVID-19 coverage. There's a real difference between how CNN, MSNBC and the major networks are covering this versus FOX News.
This is important. This is the number of mentions of coronavirus in the month of July thus far on cable news. And the bar chart speaks for itself. FOX News is not taking this as seriously as other major networks, they're just not. And when they do cover COVID-19, they try to spin it in a positive way far too often. That's a big part of the story here because pro-Trump media is influencing with the president is thinking and why he is in denial about this disease.
Quick break here on RELIABLE SOURCES. Margaret Sullivan is on deck. She has a brand-new book about local news and how we can all help.
STELTER: Breaking news now from the beleaguered world of newspapers. The McClatchy newspaper chain, which has been family owned for 163 years, has just been auctioned by a bankruptcy court and the winner was announced earlier this hour.
Chatham Asset Management is a hedge fund that is already McClatchy's biggest creditor. Let's put this in context now with "Washington Post" media critic and former "Buffalo News" editor Margaret Sullivan. She's the author of brand new book titled "Ghosting the News," "Ghosting the News: Local Journalism and the Crisis of American Democracy."
Margaret, the sale of McClatchy was inevitable, because the newspaper chain went bankrupt, they own everything from the "Miami Herald" to the "Sacramento Bee" and dozens of papers in between. What is the impact of this paper being sold to a hedge fund?
MARGARET SULLIVAN, MEDIA COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, it's not very good news, Brian. But there was no possibility in recent days of there being good news, because it came down to hedge fund versus hedge fund. Chatham versus Alden Global. And Alden Global would have been worse. So of the two lousy options, this probably -- I mean, almost certainly is a better one.
And Chatham has said that they believe in the mission, all of that. I mean, I find that a little hard to believe, because hedge funds have not been good local newspaper owners. But it's not the worst option. And I guess there can be some gratitude for that. I've been chatting with some people inside McClatchy just this morning, and there is something of a sense of relief.
STELTER: In your book you write about cuts and closures to papers. Now this is something that's going on for years. We should acknowledge it's been accelerated by the pandemic, because of the losses in advertising revenue that have happened at some local papers.
Kristen Hare of the "Poynter Institute" has been keeping track of this and she's been having to update her headline three times in the past few months from 25 papers that closed now to more than 50 papers that have closed just this spring and summer due to the pandemic. The pandemic was basically the final nail in the coffin for these papers.
Is there a positive version of this story or is it all bad news?
SULLIVAN: There is some positive news inside the local journalism, you know, sphere. And that is that there are a lot of digital sites, nonprofits and others that have stepped into the growing void caused by the demise of newspapers.
SULLIVAN: They really fill the gap but they are doing good stuff. I mean, "The Texas Tribune" is sort of one of the prototypes, and they are absolutely wonderful. But there's really not one of them to go around in every small town or even every good-sized city.
STELTER: Right. Let's put on screen some of the answers from your book. You talk about six ways forward, six ways out of this crisis. What are some of those?
SULLIVAN: So, you know, we -- the nonprofits are important. I mean, I would like to say since our time is short here and it's such an honor to be able to talk about this, that one thing that people can do is they can subscribe to their local paper. I mean, or support their local digital news Web site.
I mean, people have to be answer to this. It is about serving the citizenry. And so there is a part you can play. And if your answer to that is well, it's not what it used to be, I still think the rejoinder is we have to do what we can.
In some cases, Brian, papers have been bought by rich people, billionaires in some cases. So there are some answers out there that are beginning to develop. But I think we also need to shore up what we have right now, which is still extremely valuable.
STELTER: The number six on your list is a direct government subsidy. What's the model for that? What do you mean?
SULLIVAN: Well, I mean, this is something that up until now or up until recent times, hardly any journalist in the world would want to even entertain the idea of that and many journalists still don't want to. But we're in sort of a desperate situation now.
There would need to be -- I don't know that there's a good model for it, really. You know, public radio and public television are something of a model for it. There would need to be a lot of safeguards built into it, and it would need to be done very carefully.
STELTER: Margaret, thank you so much. Good luck with the book. The book is titled "Ghosting the News." It is essential reading for anybody who cares about the future of journalism.
More RELIABLE SOURCES right here --
SULLIVAN: Thanks, Brian.
STELTER: -- in just a moment.
STELTER: And finally today, a note about what you are not seeing on television. Why is the White House keeping Dr. Anthony Fauci off of television? Why?
I think we can probably can guess some of the reasons, but you should notice what's going on. Notice what you're not seeing. Dr. Fauci is doing lots of interviews with podcasts. He's appearing on Web casts. Sometimes on the radio, talking to newspaper reporters. But he's not appearing here on CNN or on any other television networks in the United States.
That means he is not being allowed to speak on the highest rated programs in America. "ABC World News Tonight" gets 9 or 10 million viewers a night. NBC's "Today" show, FOX's "Sean Hannity" show. These shows get 4 or 5 million viewers. They are vital pipelines to the public in the midst of a pandemic. But Fauci is not being allowed to speak on those shows.
How do we know? Because we keep asking. All the networks keep asking for interviews with members of the coronavirus task force and we keep being told no. Web casts are great. Podcasts are great but they're no match for television, which reaches many, many more millions of people at any one time.
It is shameful that someone in the White House is not allowing the country's top infectious disease expert to speak to as many people as possible. There should be daily briefings. There should be frequent events. But if they're not going to do that, at least allow him to give interviews.
We're going to keep following this. We're going to look back and we're going to be ashamed.
Whoever's in the White House is doing this is going to be ashamed. Before we go on RELIABLE SOURCES a quick written note about the return of one of CNN's most anticipated series, W. Kamau Bell's coming back with "United Shades of America," an all new season. That actually starts next Sunday at 10:00 p.m. Eastern time here on CNN.
And we will see you right back here next week.